Apple preps pair of super-thin folding iPhone prototypes


Concept folding iPhone
Apple won't release a folding iPhone until it can make a good one.
Concept: Ran Avni

One of the design goals of a folding iPhone is a unit no thicker than one of Apple’s current handsets when folded closed, according to information leaking out of the company. In fact, a pair of incredibly thin folding iPhone prototypes already exist, according to a new report.

Cupertino’s efforts in this area have supposedly been going on since 2018, but available components haven’t been up to making the device the company wants to build.

Incredibly thin folding iPhone prototypes

Samsung is already hard at work on its sixth-generation Galaxy Fold, though foldable handsets are still a niche product. The market-analysis firm IDC says a mere 1.2% of phones shipped globally in 2022 were foldables. Apple is nevertheless exploring the product category.

Apple produced a pair of prototypes in different sizes, according to a report published Wednesday by The Information. But don’t expect to see either on store shelves anytime soon — a folding iPhone is supposedly not on Apple’s timeline going through 2025.

The leak makes it clear that Apple sees the obvious flaws in current foldable handsets. The company won’t release one of its own until these weaknesses can be overcome.

Apple insists on making a good folding iPhone

Samsung’s Fold offerings are quite thick. The source for the latest info, described as “a person with direct knowledge of the situation,” says Apple’s plan is for a folding iOS device “as thin as current iPhone models.” And it allegedly wants a foldable screen without a visible crease, a flaw that’s bedeviled folding Androids.

Plus, Apple wants a hinge that enables the handset to open completely so it can lie flat. Patent filings show the company has been working on hinges since before 2020.

In addition, Apple’s design plan reportedly includes a smaller external display to supplement the larger internal one so the folding iPhone is usable without opening the hinge.

These are ambitious goals. And until engineers can make a device that meets the company’s design objectives, Apple reportedly will stick with traditional handsets.

This likely won’t have much effect on Apple’s bottom line. IDC predicts shipments of foldables might make up only 3.5% of total handsets shipped in 2027.

A folding iPad instead?

The Information‘s source indicated in addition to a folding iPhone, a folding tablet about the size of an iPad mini is on the drawing board. Apple apparently thinks creating a folding iPad would pose less of a challenge. It wouldn’t need to be so thin, for example.

That falls in line with a recent report that an 8-inch foldable iPad could be on the way in a couple of years.


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